What a week. (I could say that every week to be honest!!). Despite having a brief emotional breakdown a few days ago, I managed to find my feet again and overcame things that would previously have set me back. No matter how many beautiful places I immerse myself in, it still doesn’t seem real, that I am actually so fortunate as to be experiencing this, but I am and, frankly, I don’t want it to end.
Monday started with what turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant wander round the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt with my study group after which we went to our seminar. Having had quite enough of German interaction for one day, I then went to the gym, then back home, via the supermarket. Tuesday dawned and the relatively mild spell we’d been enjoying recently had escalated to the point at which it was now warmer in Salzburg than in Lisbon. With this in mind, my 9am lecture wasn’t half as difficult to wake up for! Later, I had another installment of my consistently incomprehensible seminar, then scooted off to basketball. Once again, Wednesday was fairly typical: gym and history lecture, after which the girls all came round to mine to cook dinner together and drink wine. It was painful discovering, at my own expense, that the stereotype of the British not being able to cook actually has some truth to it, but the less said about that the better…. As always happens on a Wednesday evening, we ended up in O’Malley’s with a group of other Erasmus students and stayed there until the early hours of the morning. By this time, I had gotten bored and was toying with setting a coaster alight in a candle, so it was probably best that I called it a night.
After a few days of doing very little in the way of studying, Thursday saw me writing a number of essays, before going to the gym then on to my language course on my newly repaired bike. Five of Toni’s friends from Bochum had come to visit and Toni had invited Adele to meet them, which was intense to say the least! They were all nice and accommodating of our slow German and we enjoyed a Gluehwein together before going home. On Friday I woke up in a surprisingly good mood and spent the day running a few errands (including having my first experience of the Austrian postal system) before going to the gym once again. I also had a little wander through the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt (again) and it was nice to spend some time alone in such a beautiful setting. That evening, Toni invited us all over to join her and her friends in their pre-drinks, which again, offered an interesting opportunity to practice our German!
Saturday morning, I woke up early to get the first train from Salzburg to Vienna to see Katie, Kitty, Jenny and Harriet. The train itself was pretty exciting – a double decker high speed one with WIFI! I got to Vienna at about 9.30am and met up with Katie and Kitty. We then walked from the Westbahnhof down the Maria-Theresien Strasse towards the Museum Quarter, stopping off at Cafe Kafka to sample some traditional Viennese cafe culture and at a Konditorei for some breakfast pastries. Once at the Museum quarter, we were greeted by the huge, grandiose, regal buildings Vienna is best associated with, most notably the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the opposite Naturhistorisches Museum, in between which was a quaint Christmas market. We then walked onward, past so many beautiful imposing buildings, including the Spanish Riding School, the National Bibliothek, the Hofburg Palace and the Weltmuseum. After this, we passed the Volksgarten and the National Parliament buildings before heading to the Rathaus and its adjoining Christmas market. Then it was on towards the university buildings (which make Salzburg look pathetic!). Being overwhelmed by all of this architecture was not difficult! From there, we rode one of the traditional trams from Schottentor to Katie’s building, where we stopped for a while to chill out and catch up. Then, it was back on the tram to the 1st and 2nd districts, where we stopped for lunch at a small cafe to sample the Viennese staple of “bread and stuff” which consists of delicately arranged toppings on freshly baked bread. Then, it was onward through more Christmas markets and through the commercial centre of the city, past the Wiener Pestsaeule and toward Stephansdom, the iconic cathedral at city’s heart. Here, we met up with Jenny and walked through the streets together, before stopping for a coffee and (another) cake. Then, it was back to Katie’s to freshen up for the evening. We took the tram back to the Rathaus to meet a few of Katie’s friends and to walk around the beautiful Rathaus Weihnachtsmarkt. We weren’t the only ones to have this idea though, and it was packed out, so we wandered elsewhere to find somewhere to eat. Afterwards, we met more of Katie’s friends along with Harriet and Jenny at a Spielbar, where cheap alcohol meets board games! This ended, inevitably, in a large group of us going to a rock and roll club nearby called Chelsea, where I had one of the best nights out in a long time!
…That was until my jeans ripped in half! Fortunately I had a long coat with me, but walking back to Katie’s at 6am hoping that my coat was long enough to cover the rip was a low moment! After only a few hours sleep (squished up in Katie’s single bed), we woke up and headed out to the avant-garde Spittelau waste disposal centre meets modern art installation, determined to make the most of the weekend. It was then a trip with the S- Bahn to the Landstrasse district, filled with cute cafes where we had a late breakfast. Then, we headed to Karlsplatz in the 1st district, where we saw the opera house, the Staatsoper, the Karlskirche and the Kuenstlerhaus before walking through yet another cute Weihnachtsmarkt. By this point, time was off the essence as Kitty’s bus left at 4pm, so we made time for one last Gluehwein before dropping her off at the station. Katie and I then headed to the Hundertwasserhaus and museum where we got to be a bit cultural! We then crossed the canal over to the Prater area of the city and the iconic Riesenrad at the permanent fairground there. We’d managed to visit on the day of the annual Perchtenlauf, so the place was crowded, but still so beautiful – it felt like the “real” Vienna, aware from the overwhelming (but still stunning) architecture of the city centre.
As the very last part of my trip there, I’d insisted that we go to the Schloss Schoenbrunn Christmas market in the grounds of the iconic palace, and I’m so glad that we did. It was absolutely magical. I understand that that’s a term I’ve bandied around quite frequently in recent weeks, but this genuinely was. The two of us bought Brezeln and waffles and ate them at the foot of the huge Christmas tree in front of the palace. Despite the cold, I was so so happy and so glad I’d gone to Vienna, not just to see the city, but also to see my friends. At 7.30pm, my train left Vienna for Salzburg, and even discovering that my bike had a flat tire once I was back in Salzburg didn’t cast a shadow over a wonderful weekend.